Social isolation exacerbates schizophrenia-like phenotypes via oxidative stress in cortical interneurons

Biol Psychiatry. 2013 May 15;73(10):1024-34. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.12.004. Epub 2013 Jan 21.


Background: Our previous studies indicated that N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) deletion from a subset of corticolimbic interneurons in the mouse brain during early postnatal development is sufficient to trigger several behavioral and pathophysiological features resembling the symptoms of human schizophrenia. Interestingly, many of these behavioral phenotypes are exacerbated by social isolation stress. However, the mechanisms underlying the exacerbating effects of social isolation are unclear.

Methods: With γ-aminobutyric acid-ergic interneuron-specific NMDAR hypofunction mouse model (Ppp1r2-Cre/fGluN1 knockout [KO] mice), we investigated whether oxidative stress is implicated in the social isolation-induced exacerbation of schizophrenia-like phenotypes and further explored the underlying mechanism of elevated oxidative stress in KO mice.

Results: The reactive oxygen species (ROS) level in the cortex of group-housed KO mice was normal at 8 weeks although increased at 16 weeks old. Postweaning social isolation (PWSI) augmented the ROS levels in KO mice at both ages, which was accompanied by the onset of behavioral phenotype. Chronic treatment with apocynin, an ROS scavenger, abolished markers of oxidative stress and partially alleviated schizophrenia-like behavioral phenotypes in KO mice. Markers of oxidative stress after PWSI were especially prominent in cortical parvalbumin (PV)-positive interneurons. The vulnerability of PV interneurons to oxidative stress was associated with downregulation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1α), a master regulator of mitochondrial energy metabolism and antioxidation.

Conclusions: These results suggest that a PWSI-mediated impairment in antioxidant defense mechanisms, presumably mediated by PGC-1α downregulation in the NMDAR-deleted PV-positive interneurons, results in oxidative stress, which, in turn, might contribute to exacerbation of schizophrenia-like behavioral phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Acetophenones / pharmacology
  • Acetophenones / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / drug effects
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / genetics
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Parvalbumins / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Receptors, AMPA / genetics
  • Schizophrenia* / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia* / etiology
  • Schizophrenia* / pathology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Social Isolation*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism


  • Acetophenones
  • Antioxidants
  • Parvalbumins
  • Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • protein phosphatase inhibitor-2
  • acetovanillone
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • glutamate receptor ionotropic, AMPA 2